The Hong Kong International Film Festival, delayed last year by the coronavirus outbreak, has announced plans to return to its normal Springtime slot. But with a lingering virus impact, the 2021 edition will be a hybrid, combining both in-theatre and online screenings and audience-engagement events.

Executive director Albert Lee said that a hybrid 45th edition would allow audiences to connect through an online platform without sacrificing the irreplaceable big-screen cinematic experience. The event will run for 12 days, April 1-12, 2021.

Selectors expect to have confirmed the full program by the end of February. They have scheduled a line-up announcement for March 9, 2021.

“The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted the international film festival circuit last year. Many festivals, including our very own HKIFF44, were either cancelled or forced to move online,” said Lee.

“With the pandemic showing few signs of abating, we recognize the proactive need to confront the challenges by adding an online component to our festival for the first time.” Besides screenings, the festival will offer online streaming of some of the seminars, post-screening talks, and other events.

“The HKIFF Society will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and comply with every health measure mandated by the government. Public safety remains our paramount concern,” Lee said.

The Hong Kong FilMart and Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum, which sometimes overlap with the festival, will this year both be held earlier, in March. An all-digital FilMart will run March 15-18, 2021, and HAF operate March 15-17, 2021.

Hong Kong has endured several surges of the virus over the past year. The current fourth wave is the most serious in terms of infections, but has caused relatively fewer deaths. Cinemas and most entertainment facilities in the city are currently shut.

A total of 612 cases was recorded in the 14 days from Dec. 29, 2020 to Jan. 11, 2021, including 555 local cases, of which 173 were from unknown sources. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Hong Kong has recorded 9,344 infections and 160 fatalities.